What’s the Deal with “Rape” Fantasies?

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A person gripping another person's wrist

If you’ve ever fantasized about someone “forcing” you to have sex, you’re in good company. According to sex educator and researcher Justin Lehmiller, a majority of people of all genders have fantasized about being ravished or “raped.” But why? What causes this taboo thought in so many of us, myself included?

A number of years ago, I had forced sex fantasies so frequently that they were bordering on an obsession. I planned to enact a CNC scene with someone I was seeing at the time, but after initially agreeing, he later backed out, telling me that only a sociopath would be interested in such a thing. Hurt but undeterred, I turned to Craigslist, but I was ultimately too scared to attempt CNC with someone I’d never met. Fortunately, it wasn’t long before I met Vagabond and my CNC dreams finally became reality. But I was nervous to even bring it up at first, given my kink shaming ex’s reaction. I knew I wasn’t a sociopath, but why did the idea of forced sex appeal to me so much?

Three Main Theories

There are a number of theories about why women, in particular, have erotic “rape” fantasies. Three of the most common ones are as follows:

  1. Sexual blame avoidance. According to this theory, forced sex fantasies allow women to express their sexual desires without being blamed for them or being accused of being promiscuous. If women are “forced” to have sex, it’s beyond their control and they have nothing to feel guilty or bad about.
  2. Sexual openness. In contrast to sexual blame avoidance, this explanation posits that fantasies about being forced to have sex are simply due to an open attitude toward a variety of sexual experiences and a lack of guilt or shame about sex.
  3. Desirability. This theory taps into the ravishment scenes that are so common in romance novels. The idea is that women who have forced sex fantasies like thinking about men becoming so overcome with desire that they’re unable to control themselves and must take what they want by force.    

The sexual blame avoidance theory is dated at this point and has largely been discredited. One study noted that often, the same women who fantasize about men forcing sex on them also fantasize about being the aggressors themselves, which would hardly absolve them of guilt or blame. The sexual openness theory, on the other hand, does seem to have some validity. Multiple studies have found that the more sexually experienced and comfortable women are, the more likely they are to have forced sex fantasies. This does not explain, however, why these specific types of fantasies are appealing. The desirability theory also seems to hold water, but needs to be studied further.

Most studies have found no correlation between history of sexual trauma and forced sex fantasies, but Lehmiller’s research (which is some of the most recent) did find a link. He suggests this is because such fantasies allow the victim to enact a version of the event where they are in control. This comports with anecdotal accounts describing why CNC appeals to some people who have been sexually assaulted.

Lehmiller also found that forced sex fantasies were correlated with particular traits, such as active fantasy lives, the ability to separate sex from emotions, and thrill seeking. 

Turning the Tables 

Most studies have focused on examining why women fantasize about being “raped,” but some research has been conducted on the flip side of the scenario: fantasies about forcing others to (consensually) have sex. Although these types of fantasies aren’t as prevalent as those about being forced, they are by no means uncommon. This is especially true among men and nonbinary people, who are twice as likely to report fantasizing about forcing sex on others as women.

As with fantasies about being forced to have sex, Lehmiller found that people with active fantasy lives, the ability to separate sex from emotions, and thrill seeking were common characteristics among people who fantasize about forcing others to have sex. However, there was no correlation with being a victim of sexual assault.     

Is BDSM the Answer?

Lehmiller notes that fantasies about either being forced to have sex or forcing sex on others correlate with more BDSM fantasies generally, which makes a lot of sense to those of us who are into BDSM and CNC. Lehmiller’s research is an outlier in this regard, though. Oddly, almost none of the other existing studies on rape fantasies address BDSM, which seems like a major failing. 

While I’m fairly open to trying new things, and the idea of a man “raping” me due to uncontrolled lust has some appeal, none of that holds a candle to the D/s components of CNC. I am certain that my forced sex fantasies are rooted in my core desire to submit and have my control taken from me. And it seems to me that many other people who have these fantasies probably also have D/s inclinations, but researchers either aren’t bothering to suss that out or research participants aren’t aware of the reasons for their fantasies. If more research about forced sex fantasies specifically examined correlations with BDSM, I suspect rape fantasies would become far less mysterious.  

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